Growing your own fruit and veg… some years you win some and some well, you make lemonade out of lemons. In this case it is harvesting what we can from the garlic, be grateful for what we have, use it well and think about next year and trouble shoot.
To give you some context last years garlic harvest all looked like this or bigger. In previous years it has matched this. But this year it barely formed.
The photo below is a sample from this years harvest. Topped, tailed, the outer layer peeled, cut in half and the stalk removed. Read my second blog post Garlic Harvest 2021 #2 and see what I did with it. Nothing is ever wasted at Fairy Wren Cottage.
At Fairy Wren Cottage mid November – Mid December is harvest time for garlic.
Tip: This time frame will vary for you depending on where you grow your garlic in the garden, your climate and how early you plant your garlic. While books and charts are great I would be asking your neighbours or local gardens when they plant and what they plant. There are so many different garlic varieties and some suit different climates better than others.
This week all the telltale signs from previous years indicated to get the garlic out of the ground pronto with expected rainy days in the forcast. With heavier than usual Spring rainfall we didn’t want to risk the garlic being mature and rotting. You see rain accumulates in the stalk joined to the bulb and can easily make the garlic soft and mouldy if left in the ground too long.
Tip: If you are hand watering your garlic try and prevent as much water pooling in the stalk as possible by watering around the roots.
The garlic leaves were getting a touch of garlic rust on the leaves which is typical for us late in the season and an indicator for us that harvest time isn’t too far off . No other diseases or pests were detected. So I can’t conclude it was pests or diseases that stunted the crop.
Tip: Garlic Rust usually develops on the leaves in the last four weeks or so before harvesting. With it being so close to harvest time we don’t touch it and prefer to let the garlic rust go untreated, I’m sure we could spray it with all manner of things but again I want to prevent as much liquid pooling in the stem of the garlic to prevent rotting. Gravity will make anything you spray on the leaves slide downwards and pool in the base of the stem.
How we plant our garlic.
The bed was prepared the same way as always.
The previous summer crop is taken out with little soil disturbance as possible, the raised garden bed topped up with homemade compost mixed with organic cow manure then left to sit for 3 weeks before the garlic is planted approximately 30 – 40 cm apart. I like to let the bed rest incase the compost/cow manure is too rich, this window of time is an opportunity for the combination to dry out and settle, not burn the cloves when they first go in.
Can you ever 100% say that the seed garlic wasn’t any good without ruining the suppliers reputation and giving them a bad name that can damage their business. I mean really… it is a big accusation with out any conclusive proof. Just to be clear I am not blaming the poor crop on the garlic seed.
For the first time I did order seed garlic, the bulbs were on the smaller side which was a bit disappointing since I paid nearly $10 a bulb. Yes…I know…there was method to my madness though! I had the grand plan of investing in this new seed garlic, growing it and saving some to plant for next years crop. Therefor establishing a garlic seed bank. In previous years I have planted garlic cloves grown from the season before. What happened? It got harvested, processed and eaten by mistake!
Tip: Label your seed garlic if saving it from the previous harvest and store it in a different spot to where you store the garlic you are going to eat.
To mulch or not to mulch and what with?
I think this is a large contributor to where we could have come undone! You know how you sometimes have garden jobs that you unexpectedly love and dutifully do, they become your thing?! Well, one of mine is weeding the garlic! It’s a total surprise to me how much I love it! Before this year I never ever mulched the garlic but being studious and wanting to follow the garlic seed companies instructions I mulched heavily, they suggested sugar cane mulch, we didn’t have it and I mulched with hay. The hay, bought from a local farmer wasn’t sprayed but did sprout lots and lots causing me to weed and weed and weed. I think that weeding has disturbed the roots of the garlic as it was developing. About 8 weeks before the usual harvest time I could see that the sprouting hay wasn’t giving up, plan b was removing it all then replacing it with sugar cane mulch.
Tip: I don’t recommend mulching garlic with hay.
The heavy rainfall during Spring has been wonderful, it has reminded us that everything in the garden that is flourishing really well does need this level of rainfall or watering regularly. So much is booming that isn’t usually growing at this fast past and somethings aren’t going as well. It’s an opinion based on results of this years harvest and reflecting on previous years harvests that we just didn’t have the right growing conditions this year for garlic, plain and simple really.
All that said, the take away from this article is – I am putting the poor garlic harvest down to the heavy rainfall, weather temps that come with that heavy rain and mulching with hay that needed to be weeded more so than usual, so much it disturbed the root growth.
Look out for my second blog article called Garlic Harvest 2021 #2. I’ll share soon what I did with the crop. Nothing is ever wasted!
Try not to be too disappointed if one of your harvests isn’t a bumper crop. Reflect, trouble shoot, plan. There is always next years planting and harvesting season to look forward to.
Garlic Harvest 2021 #1
December 2, 2021